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You are either a reader of books, or you’re not. You might pick up a magazine now and then, or skim some article while waiting for the barber. You may be that young lifeguard years ago who told me, “No thanks, it’s the summer. I don’t read in the summer.” Meaning, if it’s not on his Fall reading list for school, it’s not happening. Reading became a chore somewhere along the way, and reading for pleasure an oxymoron.

As you already know, I’m a Reader. I like to read everywhere, especially on a beach. I can read on a train, a plane or even a boat. This type of reading makes Bob sick; if his body is in motion, he cannot read. I’ve been known to read while sitting on the floor next to a baby in a bathtub, though I couldn’t read while nursing. I’ve made some of the best friends through book clubs. So yesterday, I eagerly picked up the NYTimes article at the gym, “Obama’s Secret to Surviving the White House Years: Books,” by the book critic Michiko Kakutani.

I really love reading on the bike, while everyone else is plugged into some TV or work-out music playlist. And I love Kafka’s quote on reading: “A book must be the axe for the frozen sea within us.”

And what I took away from Obama’s love of books, is that books were a refuge for his childhood. He grew up a Black child in a White world, and even when his mother moved him back to Hawaii, he felt different because he had come from Indonesia. He always felt different. And I could relate to that, because I was the child with a different last name from my foster parents, I was the girl with flaming red hair who stood out in a crowd when I so wanted to blend in.

President Obama could time travel through books and find that all cultures touch on some of the same human conditions. And he learned to fit into whatever world he found himself in by reading about other people, that included Shakespeare, and forging his own unique identity. Because knowledge was portable in the form of a book…”from his peripatetic and sometimes lonely boyhood, when “these worlds that were portable” provided companionship, to his youth when they helped him to figure out who he was, what he thought and what was important.”

To this day, reading has remained an essential part of his daily life. He recently gave his daughter Malia a Kindle filled with books he wanted to share with her (including “One Hundred Years of Solitude,” “The Golden Notebook” and “The Woman Warrior”). And most every night in the White House, he would read for an hour or so late at night — reading that was deep and ecumenical, ranging from contemporary literary fiction (the last novel he read was Colson Whitehead’s “The Underground Railroad”) to classic novels to groundbreaking works of nonfiction like Daniel Kahneman’s “Thinking, Fast and Slow” and Elizabeth Kolbert’s “The Sixth Extinction.”                    https://www.nytimes.com/2017/01/16/books/obamas-secret-to-surviving-the-white-house-years-books.html?_r=0

I love the idea of a Kindle as a graduation present! We gave Great Grandma Ada one for her birthday once, and it’s the gift that keeps on giving – since every book she downloads, we pay for! She told me I must read “A Man Called Ove,” for fun and diversion, and I’m planning on it.

President Obama recently invited a number of authors to the White House, including Michael Chabon. I just finished his novel, “Moonglow,” which was mailed to me by my favorite place in Nashville, the One and Only Parnassus Bookstore, since Bob has signed me up to their First Editions Club. It’s a book of the month club for Literary Nerds like me. Moonglow is one of those books you never want to end, you savor the last pages, drawing them out over many nights. And it made me think about a new approach to the Flapper, because he was dealing with his grandfather’s hidden history. http://www.npr.org/2016/11/19/502581929/moonglow-shines-a-light-on-hidden-family-history

You see my Mother was a gun moll, who went to prison in the 1930s, and my book is very much about her. My writing is like taking an axe to my family history.

If I am arrested on Saturday, Bob swears he will bail me out, but if you don’t hear from me next week, I may just be reading in jail! Here I am reading Emily Dickinson during lunch:   “I have no life but this to lead it here.”

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#RealNews

Imagine coming home, after nine days with no news of any sort, only to find out that our new political reality has become dissecting Mr T’s Tweets. So you naturally tune this out of your consciousness. You might tune up your classical music that magically erupts from a radio station in Seattle via your wireless Sonos speaker and an Ipad App.  http://www.sonos.com/en-us/products/wireless-speakers

You could probably get Radio Free Europe on there?!

And then, by reflex, you tune into NPR in your car. Big mistake, because you hear that all hell broke loose yesterday in a Mt T press conference over a sex tape that either does or does not exist! Let’s say our Intel thought it was important enough to brief both POTUS and PEOTUS last week.

In a climate that sends a shooter to a pizza place in DC over some far-fetched conspiracy theory about sex trafficking; and when Rolling Stone is taken to task over a fake rape allegation, it would behoove us to decipher what is real and what is fake news, dontcha think? Critical Thinking skills were all the rage when my kids were in high school. Young people today are better at reading #RealNews on the Internets than most of our peers.

I was taught in Catholic School that we received First Holy Communion at the age of seven because that’s when we could tell the difference between right and wrong, true and false. Monsters are not real. There is no Santa Claus, no unicorns, no pot of gold at the end of a rainbow. But then we are supposed to believe that little wafer we’re about to eat is the body and blood of Christ, so the margin of reality becomes fluid. And a lot depends on what particular belief system we inculcate from our parents…

Still, lawyers can build a case in support of a theory by proving a “pattern” of behavior. Courtrooms love this stuff, people are convicted on their patterns all the time. Maybe this guy was nowhere near his wife when she disappeared, BUT here are all the pictures and phone calls and witnesses to prove that he liked using his wife as a punching bag for years.  You don’t always need a body to convict a murderer.

So let’s look at all this shall we:

Mr T said he liked going backstage at the Miss Universe Pageant, and he was in Moscow for that event in 2013, the year an “alleged” tape in question was made. In fact there are pictures of him there, smooching the contestants.

An ex-MI6 operator, Christopher Steele, who prepared the dossier on Mr T’s tape has left his home and is in hiding. Mr Steele runs a London-based security and intel firm that deals mostly with Eastern Europe. Among his allegations, which are unsubstantiated because this tape has not surfaced, “…are that Moscow has a video recording of Mr Trump with prostitutes and damaging information about his business activities.” http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-38591382

Last April the CIA Director was shown evidence of money flowing from the Kremlin to the US Presidential campaign – it worried him enough that he convened “…six agencies or departments of government. Dealing with the domestic, US, side of the inquiry, were the FBI, the Department of the Treasury, and the Department of Justice. For the foreign and intelligence aspects of the investigation, there were another three agencies: the CIA, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the National Security Agency, responsible for electronic spying.”

And in other #RealNews, Mr T’s business partner, Tevfik Arif, in the early 2000s was a Turkish citizen, born in Russia, with some very interesting ties.

In 2010, Mr Arif was arrested in Turkey on charges he helped arrange an orgy on a yacht that had once belonged to the country’s founder, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. In 2012, the charges were dropped, a company spokeswoman says. Today, Mr Arif is believed to be living in Turkey. His spokeswoman said he was the “sole owner” of Bayrock during the time it did business with Mr Trump. She declined to provide details, citing litigation and confidentiality agreements.  https://www.ft.com/content/549ddfaa-5fa5-11e6-b38c-7b39cbb1138a

That yacht secured teenage “models” from Russia and the Ukraine, as “singers and dancers.” Google it.

This morning I heard that Mr T said CNN trafficked in fake news, because they reported about said dossier that was published on Buzzfeed. He also said he would only discuss his grandkids with his sons over the next four years. And yet, Republicans looked askance when Mr Clinton said he had only discussed his grandkids for 20 minutes on a plane with the AG! I sometimes think that indeed, Mr T could get away with saying and doing anything he wants, which is downright chilling. After all, we have the Billy Bush/Pussy Gate tape, and that didn’t mean a thing.

Let’s hold all journalists to the same standard. If this tape does exist, we have just elected a Manchurian candidate. We actually don’t know the truth, yet… It’s true, US Intel was not involved, the Brits started this fire and we are now obligated to put it out.

Is it real, or is it Memorex?  img_5685

 

 

“Be Honest Truthful and Warmhearted. Make compassion the basis of your determination”

This is the message that greeted me this morning, after Bob slammed into my still open carry-on at 4 am. It’s a little reminder from the Dalai Lama to keep it real, be mindful, and all that other old/new age stuff. It reminds me of Viola Davis’ performance in The Help. You know the one, where she is holding her young charge full of blonde curls by the shoulders and imprinting these words on her:

“You is Kind; You is Smart; You is Important.” 

Well, Viola introduced Meryl Streep at the Golden Globes the other night, and I thought, ‘poor thing.’ She could barely speak, she had lost her voice and I strained to hear her accept the Cecil B. DeMille Award for her life’s work. You see, Meryl is my age, she grew up in NJ and went to public schools. I’ve always loved and admired her work as an actor. I always thought, There. But. For. Fortune…

They gave me three seconds to say this, so. An actor’s only job is to enter the lives of people who are different from us and let you feel what that feels like. And there were many, many, many powerful performances this year that did exactly that — breathtaking, compassionate work. There was one performance this year that stunned me. It sank its hooks in my heart. Not because it was good. There was nothing good about it. But it was effective and it did its job. It made its intended audience laugh and show their teeth.

In her elegant way, she eviscerated Mr T, and she didn’t even have to speak his name.

Bob and I had just seen LaLa Land, and being old musical comedy nerds we adored the movie. Two young people chase their dreams, in a sumptuously saturated set. An actor, playing an actor in Hollywood. A musician finally plays the jazz he loves; and I thought about my son, packing up his life and moving to LaLa Land. The kind of bold determination and passion it takes to pursue art as your career.

The movie dominated the Golden Globes – a pure escape from the reality of this past year. And while this was the backdrop, Meryl called us back to the Here and Now. She called out our POTUS-Elect as a reality-star-in-chief. The kind of juvenile, pompous person who would make fun of a disabled reporter. His electoral victory giving rise to the mean, underbelly of racism and hate still present in our country.

A couple feels free to write “We don’t tip Blacks,” on a waitress’ check in VA.

A number of bomb threats are phoned into Jewish centers in NJ, SC, FL and Nashville

This hits too close to home. This is unacceptable. This is why we march. 

I will not listen to pundits decipher Mr T’s Tweets about Meryl’s acting abilities. I will not read about his appointment of his son-in-law to a West Wing post.

This is why we march.

We believe in loving kindness. We believe in fact-based science. We believe that every person has a story, and we are all equally important.

And just as Republicans in VA feel free to constrain our right to assemble, by introducing legislation upping the charges of not obeying orders by the police – you know that non-violent assembly thing that MLK Jr was so fond of – from a Class 3 to a Class 1 misdemeanor…  http://lis.virginia.gov/cgi-bin/legp604.exe?171+sum+SB1055

This is why we march.

Because all the world is a stage, and it’s time for all of us to pry the hooks out of our hearts, and pull on our big girl boots. If I am arrested, it will be an honor and a privilege.

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Nuts to You

Don’t you just love it when scientists prove some theory you’ve held your whole life, contradicting years of previous recommendations? Bob’s reaction yesterday to the news about peanut allergies was mixed, but mostly he was annoyed. Here is the gist of yesterday’s news from pediatricians:

“The new guidelines say most babies can try a little peanut paste or powder — never whole peanuts — at home. High-risk infants are defined as those with severe eczema or an egg allergy. … “That’s a whole generation of children who never have to develop this allergy.”

The Love Bug still has to bring only a sunflower butter and jelly sandwich to her preschool. This news is too late for her little classmate who couldn’t eat one of her cupcakes on her birthday. I felt so sorry for that little girl, who knew Publix made their cupcakes in a factory with peanuts? I truly believe labeling is disabling. When we learned that the Bride has a severe allergy to cats, we just tried to screen which house was suitable for a playdate.

But this new study makes perfect sense. Introduce peanuts early, like mixing some powder into baby’s yogurt around four months of age, and your offspring will gradually build their immune system. It makes sense, if having a dog in your house (ostensibly bringing more dirt and germs inside) helps build a child’s immune system, why shouldn’t this work? When I kept getting poison ivy as a child, I eventually landed in a doctor’s office getting shots with guess what? Small doses of the poison ivy compound to build my own natural immunity!

Bob was naturally smug yesterday. He didn’t actually say, “I told you so,” but you could see it around his eyes. He is partial to free-range parenting. If it fell on the floor, the 5 second rule applies. The baby finds an old piece of quesadilla behind the Christmas tree while you’re dismantling it, sure go-ahead and take a bite! What’s a little dirt? Bob has felt this way his entire life, whereas I am a hand-washing maniac. The Bride’s style takes after her Dad, the Rocker leans more toward hand sanitizers. And strangely enough, my son is just fine with cats!

“Childhood peanut allergies in the U.S. have increased dramatically over the last decade: In 1997, 0.4 percent of children reported an allergy to peanuts, and by 2008 that number was 1.4 percent, or more than 3 million people.” http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/guidelines-babies-peanut-allergies_us_586eab12e4b099cdb0fc3947

While in Nashville, serving apple slices dipped into peanut butter, I downloaded a little learning App on my Ipad. PopBob was trying it out with the Baby Boy, who is now a hefty two year old who eats just about anything. I could hear Bob complaining about computer programmers who don’t think like a child; I also heard them laughing and bonding. After that, we went out on a walk to collect pine cones, and rocks and bottle caps. So go ahead people, kick off your shoes, get outside and play in the dirt this year. And don’t forget to pack a PB and J!

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Opposite Day

I’m feeling like a two year old. It’s a rainy, cold morning in the mountains and I just cranked up my Twitter account to read about some middle-of-the-night GOP shenanigans. It would seem that Congress has voted to dismantle the Office of Congressional Ethics! So somebody please sit me on your lap, get me a blankie, and read me Rebecca Patterson’s book, “My No, No,NO Day.”

Won’t somebody make it stop?!

After nine days in Nashville without cable news of any kind, I was almost looking forward to watching some CNN. Y’all know I’m a news junkie, an ex-reporter and school board policy wonk with a taste for irony. When West Nile began swelling my brain until my eyes turned beet red, I didn’t go to a doctor until I couldn’t read that new-fangled news crawl. But I’ve been quickly disabused of this notion – it would seem that media coverage today consists of deconstructing Mr T’s Tweets.

And I refuse to follow him on Twitter. NO.

SO, since throwing a temper tantrum isn’t an option, today we here in MountainMornings Land will be observing Opposite Day! I am in opposition to this whole damn Electoral College business (this is true) and Mr T is NOT my President-Elect! Get it?

Today I will dress up funny, I will say the opposite of what I mean to say, and probably mumble. A Lot. Kids love doing this in Middle School; they learn about antonyms and might play a game of Opposite BINGO in their classroom. When the Rocker was very little, we were playing a board game with a group of adults, the one where you can’t actually say the word in order to get your team to guess your word and win…his word was “Negative.”

“The opposite of affirmative.”

That’s what he said, and we all looked at each other. This response has been etched into our family’s history.

In some ways, I feel as if our country is living in a perpetual state of Opposite Day. Since journalists are now trying to parse what, how and when to use the word “LIE,” and translating Tweets has become a common practice. It’s only because I have Twitter on my phone that I read about Mr T’s New Year message to his “enemies.” Tasting like a bad clam, I wish I hadn’t.

Nancy Pelosi said, “Ethics are the first casualty of the new Republican Congress.”

Elizabeth Warren said, “Tell us, @GOP: Who, exactly, thinks that the problem with Washington is that we have too many rules requiring the gov to act ethically?”

And I say, shall I list the antonyms of ETHICS? Corrupt, Dishonest, Immoral, Improper, Unjust, Unrighteous….

Some friends and family have stopped watching the news on TV altogether. But being an ostrich about current events isn’t the answer. In fact, this beautiful, tall bird has gotten a bum rap all these years. They actually DON’T stick their heads into the sand! http://mentalfloss.com/article/56176/why-do-ostriches-stick-their-heads-sand

So let’s suspend all our belief systems for the day, or maybe the week, or even this New Year. My cookie broke and ballet is too itchy and… Put on your big girl boots and get ready to March on Washington ladies on January 21.

 

Coffee Klatch

The Flapper was not a morning person, and I seem to take after her. We knew not to bother her as kids unless and until she had her first cup of joe; instant Nescafé coffee that is. A heaping teaspoon of granulated coffee crystals with sugar and Half and Half combined with a cigarette was her morning ritual. Doris Day would serenade us on the radio, as the sun streamed into the kitchen through fat wooden Venetian blinds.

Bob has always been a morning person. He is insanely happy to start each day, and always loved cafe au lait, that is lots of sugar and milk with his brew; after giving up his morning bottle of Coca Cola that got him through Med School. And we became coffee snobs. We were very early adopters of “grinding your own” and sought out exotic blends of coffee in the Berkshires, pre-Starbucks proliferation era. Even when we moved back to NJ in 1987, new friends were surprised to hear the roar of a coffee grinder after dinner.

So I guess it should come as no surprise that both our children requested new coffee delivery systems for the New Year. The Rocker is marrying Cait, a non-coffee-drinker, while back in Nashville the Groom never touches the stuff. There was also the matter of being sustainable, avoiding the pitfalls of plastic pods and such. So the Bride and her brother wanted to brew an excellent cup for one, and not trash the planet while also feeding our family addiction. They went into serious research mode.

Which single cup pour-over coffee maker is the best, French Press or Chemex?

After days of deliberation on both sides of the country, they both received as gifts a Chemex pot! The funny thing is, this clear glass fluted pot looks similar to our old way of making coffee, with a Melitta. The Melitta company has been around for over a hundred years, and probably fueled many late night dorm studying marathons for Boomers. It comes in two parts, a plastic funnel and the glass carafe, and its filters are comparatively cheap.

We switched to a Keurig in the last few years for its speed and convenience; and though there is some guilt about the pods what I really miss is waking to the smell of coffee brewing. That was always Bob’s job when he was home. It’s like our gas fireplace, I miss that wood burning smell too but not the mess. And I remember Nelly Bly saying that even with his dementia in full swing, Daddy Jim could still make a great pot of coffee. So like phone numbers, and letter writing, will we all forget how our ancestors made coffee, percolating over an open flame?

These little faces greeted me yesterday morning for some latke-merry-making in the kitchen. I used the Bride’s old Keurig before frying up a batch of pure Jewish perfection. Happy New Year to one and all, and may caffeine be your addiction of choice too!

Balmy Weather

We are into the fourth day of grandparenting in Nashville. Four days straight of the Bride and Groom working at their hospitals. Because no matter what holiday you celebrate, there could be an admission to the ICU or a visit to an ER in someone’s family. What would we do without our first responders, our nurses and doctors? And since I’ve been reading a bit of Dr Seuss lately, let me take a minute to explainly. 

One Mama goes to work all day; grandparents come to play and play

Dada hops in his car too; beeping his horn “Toodaloo”

Nana and Pop Bob open the door; picking those babes up from the floor

Quick outside we must go; the sun is out – there is NO snow!

NO snow, NO ice, No wind, NO rain?

NO clouds, NO bugs,  NO candy canes?

NO dogs running here and there; NO dogs running anywhere

But look the giant snowman’s UP! UP! UP!

When you are two, that’s buttercup!

Birds are bathing, buds are blooming, scooters come out scooterooing 

To race and run, it’s warm today, let’s have some fun!

Let’s PLAY

The giant white plastic Olaf snowman on a neighboring porch needs a motor to come up, and this is always a big event.  It’s strangely balmy weather here, mid 70s! 

I’d forgotten what it’s like to breathe in the head of a certain red-headed sleeping child on my chest. That is the best smell of the great outdoors. Or to peer close-up into the tiny mouth of a little one while “helping” her brush her teeth. To negotiate a truce between siblings – well IF we share such and such, THEN we can take it with us. To make up magical stories and explain how pouting never ever works. 

To tell the Love Bug “Cinderella” was her Mama’s favorite movie when she was her age, and watch the look of wonderment mixed with understanding fill her eyes. 

My wish for parents all over this balmy, windy, South (which is changing of course today), and the frozen tundra of the North, the metropolitan East and the sunny West is that you slow down your life. Take the time to reflect on all the small moments that make up your wonderful life. Grandparenting is the best gift this holiday season. 

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